Amid the backlash resulting from the Justice Department intervening in the criminal case of convicted felon Roger Stone, attorney and law professor Jonathan Turley on Tuesday penned an op-ed defending his friend Attorney General William Barr against what he describes as a “Kafkaesque” rush to judgement.
According to Turley, the criticisms directed at Barr are politically motivated and are neither grounded in fact nor reason.
“What is most astonishing about these calls for impeachment, incarceration, and disbarment — we have not reached the disembowelment stage yet — is that they entirely ignore countervailing information or any explanation other than raw political manipulation of the Justice Department,” Turley wrote. “More importantly, they ignore even the slightest possibility that the Justice Department may have done the right thing for the right reason.”
The crux of the controversy centers on the DOJ undercutting the prosecutors in the case–who initially recommended Stone be imprisoned for 7-9 years–by submitting a second recommendation asking Judge Amy Berman Jackson to be more lenient on President Donald Trump’s friend and longtime associate. The seemingly politically-motivated intervention caused all four prosecutors to withdraw from the case, and one of them left the DOJ altogether. What resulted was more than 2,000 former DOJ alumni signing an open letter seeking Barr’s resignation.
Turley admitted that he and AG Barr have been friends for decades, and even conceded that the circumstances justify an investigation. But he also argued that the outrage has been both hyperbolic and hypocritical, claiming that Barr’s critics lack a complex understanding of the events that led to the DOJ’s decision to intervene in the first place. He said that the important aspects of Barr’s widely covered ABC News interview last week were ignored because he did not come off as a “witless Trump troll.”
“Notably, in expressing alarm over the threat to professional ethics, these lawyers did not feel it was necessary to learn critical details about the underlying controversy before warning of ‘future abuses’ and ‘unlawful orders.’ They show the same lack of interest in a fair process that they accuse Barr of committing,” Turley wrote.
The Barr interview certainly wasn’t ignored. Many simply weren’t convinced of Barr’s sincerity, and chalked up the interview as staged outrage. Turley said that was not so. He said that Barr was “correct.’
“Worse yet, many media and legal experts ignored one relevant point: Barr was correct,” he wrote. “Justice Department prosecutors were wildly off-base in their initial draconian recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for Stone. It was a recommendation on the high end of the sentencing guidelines range — but only because prosecutors ‘stacked’ counts against Stone, who is generally viewed as a clownish political provocateur. This time, what he has called his ‘performance art’ went too far.”
This appeared to disregard the DOJ’s 2017 directive under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which ordered federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense”–a policy which Barr has not rescinded.
Turley suggests that the only reasonable reaction is to wait for more facts to emerge before calls for Barr’s impeachment continue to intensify.
“I have my own presumptions and bias regarding Barr, based on decades of friendship,” he wrote. “Yet neither affinity nor hostility should shape our analysis of this episode. So here is a novel suggestion. Before we impeach, disbar, and incarcerate Barr, maybe we should hear from him.”
Barr is expected to testify before Congress at the end of March, more than a month after the present controversy will have passed.
[image via CSPAN screengrab]